1.) While some cities’ “tourist cards” are deemed not worth it in terms of overall price versus the cost of attractions you actually want to visit, the Lisboa Card definitely is. Not only does it offer free access to many of the city’s popular attractions (Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, the Tile Museum, the Coach Museum), as well as discounted rates to other attractions (Castelo de Sao Jorge and Monument to the Discoveries), it also has free access to those attractions outside of the city’s limits, specifically those in the Sintra area (the National Palace, Queluz). Another major plus is that with the Lisboa card one rides free on public transportation, so whether you’re taking a tram, bus, metro or even a funicular, it’s free. This was terrific when riding on the Elevador de Santa Justa. Normally tickets are five Euros per person for adults; simply show your card and you’re on. You can purchase the passes at numerous locales in the Lisbon area but if you’re an American, I highly recommend ordering yours on Expedia as you will be charged in American dollars and not Euros, thus saving some money. If you do purchase through Expedia, you simply print out your voucher at home and exchange it at a tourism office in the Praça do Comércio.
2.) By all accounts Lisbon definitely seemed like a safe city but just like any large metropolitan area, it has some negative aspects too. I’ve never been to Amsterdam and can’t comment on the free flowing drug culture there, but in Lisbon you will be constantly propositioned by gentlemen asking you if you want to buy drugs. Thankfully I was never bothered with this but D would be asked multiple times in the course of a night when we were out walking. It’s not that we were in places of ill repute. Rather we were in the touristy areas, but I suppose this is where the dealers feel are the best to conduct business. Unlike some of the panhandlers who would harass you when dining outside (at one point I had to sternly say go away in Spanish to a woman who would not leave our table), simply shaking your head and walking on seemed to do the trick with the drug dealers. I’m not sure about the legalities of drug use in Portugal but it was a bit of a shame that the police don’t do more to crack down on this, since it negatively colors a city for visiting tourists who don’t want to be bothered.
3.) If you travel to Lisbon during the warmer weather, comfortable walking shoes, sun screen and water are absolute musts. As our bed and breakfast host explained, since Lisbon is at sea level (unlike Sintra which is in the mountains), the weather is much hotter, the sun more intense. I stupidly didn’t apply sun screen the first two days we were in Portugal and got embarrassingly burned (I never tan, I just burn), but once we arrived in Lisbon, I applied sun block each and every morning. Also, I am all for being smartly dressed and I do try to achieve this when I travel. However, footwear is always a constant battle for me. Even though they are hardly fashionable, sometimes you just have to wear sneakers and I did when we were in Sintra. However, I didn’t want to in Lisbon since it was so hot. Before I left I purchased Croc sandals (yes, Crocs makes footwear besides its somewhat lame looking plastic clogs). They were pretty fashionable looking but more important, they were extremely comfortable; I walked all over Lisbon wearing them and never had any issues. The amount of female tourists I saw in heels and wedge sandals was astounding, especially considering they were traipsing over cobblestone streets and hiking up steep hills. Lastly, water is key. Thankfully bottled water is relatively cheap in Lisbon, something I didn’t remember being the case in Paris. I hate having to cart around so many articles when touring and yet in Lisbon where in the sun temperatures were in the low 90s, one needs to stay hydrated. As stunning as the weather was, when we return to Portugal, we’d most likely visit in the spring or fall, before the heat has descended on the city.